I just listened to the recording of the last Love Ethics class and I’m wondering exactly I get seduced by the cosmos. The three main ways Satan seduces people are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life. I think I am most influenced by the boastful pride of life. I’m not naturally an excessive sensualist; it simply isn’t my personality. Sometimes I get drawn into the lures of materialism, wanting to buy nice, new things, but mostly I’m too practical to succumb to this. The lust of the eyes will probably be more tempting as we look for a house to buy. But more than anything, the boastful pride of life infiltrates and undermines my desire to build into God’s kingdom.
“The boastful pride of life seeks to take others out in the quest to steal significance.”
One of the ways that I am drawn into the cosmos is my concern with how I look. I’m not really into make-up, trendy hairstyles, or clothes (anymore), but I am into fitness. It’s basically good to be fit, but my focus too easily shifts to my looks. My concern moves from whether I am fit to whether I look fit. The classic question, “Does my (fill in body part) look big in this dress?” says it all. I don’t want to buy into the cosmos lie that I need to look like an airbrushed model in order to be accepted by others or be attractive to my husband. But I realize that sometimes my trips to the “work-out center” have more to do with appearance than health.
Another way that I get seduced by the cosmos is by taking my identity from what I do. This is a tendency I probably developed in childhood and adolescence, as I found success in music, sports, and school. As I was considered skilled in my small-town high school, I took my identity from my success. I felt smart and talented, but underneath my confident façade teemed a toxic waste dump of insecurities and false humility. I didn’t really feel smart because I knew that someone, somewhere (probably not too far away) was smarter than me. And I was afraid of being confronted with this reality because if I took my identity from being smart and then I wasn’t the “smart one” anymore, what was I? Without my false sense of intellectual superiority, I was utterly insignificant.
College posed a terrifying threat because I knew the proverbial pond was about to get much bigger. Unfortunately, I choose a major that was less than intellectually rigorous, and Akron isn’t exactly the Ivy League. Once again I was at the top, a big fish in a relatively small pond. Ego bolstered by my professor’s praise and my GPA, I continued, as much as I didn’t want to, taking my identity from my school. The only event that could destroy this temptation was graduation. As a teacher rather than a student, I came face-to-face with my inability to apply my knowledge perfectly in every situation. And I had no grades coming in at the end of each semester, only kids whose free will to learn was largely outside of my control.
Now I subtly but proudly take my identity from my performance in a different realm: ministry. If my disciples are doing well, serving, and reaching out to people, I feel like I’m doing all right. If people thank or compliment me for my efforts, I feel validated. As much as I hate to admit it, I often realize my thoughts reveal that I seek recognition for works of service. I was asked to help at several weddings without receiving the honor of being a bridesmaid. This disappointed me even though I understood the bride’s choices, and I recognized that sometimes I serve with proud rather than humble motives.
Talking to another person who is proud of their accomplishments makes me realize the depth of my own pride. Instead of humbly listening to and congratulating their successes, or calling them to humility if needed, I find that I want to boast about myself. Six years after high school graduation, I still feel the desperate need to prove myself to others. I want to show that I’m just as good as the next person, when the truth is that we’re all terribly depraved.
When I have kids, I’m afraid I’ll want them to experience the same type of success in music, sports, and school that I did. I know those activities aren’t as important as the Kingdom of God. They can actually be the devil’s best ploy to distract my family from God and win them to his kingdom instead. I don’t want to take my identity from my kids and how successful they are in the world, but I already see myself doing it when I proudly brag about my smart, talented, beautiful little sisters. The temptation to do the same with my kids will only be stronger, no doubt.
God is teaching me how to take my identity from him, especially as I’ve quit my job and can no identify myself as a very young high school teacher. Now I am in a rather humbling position as an unpublished writer and deacon wannabe. While I’ll continue to work and write for God’s Kingdom, I can’t take my sense of worth from the success or failures I experience. I don’t want to proudly boast (aloud or in my head) about my attributes or accomplishments. God gave me every good gift I have so there’s no use bragging about what I’ve done nothing to earn. I think the antidote to the boastful pride of life is being a humble, grateful, faithful steward of my gifts, so I want to learn significance by bringing glory to God as I serve others, instead of building a kingdom for myself. This is the best way to fight against the seduction of the cosmos.